The Derby Police Department is currently heading up an investigation into the fatal wreck that occurred at the QuikTrip off of K-15 and Meadowlark on April 24.
Around 5:19 p.m. on April 24, emergency responders received a call of a vehicle fire at the QuikTrip location in the 1400 block of N. Nelson Drive.
Derby Police Chief Robert Lee reported that it appears a van traveling northbound on K-15 turned east on Meadowlark and “for some reason” careened off the roadway into the QuikTrip parking lot, where it struck a parked vehicle being filled with gas.
“When the van struck the car, it knocked the car into the gas pump, which knocked the gas pump over and caused a large fire and explosion,” Lee said.
The wreck resulted in the death of 3-year-old Harper Ivy and left her mother, Stephanie Corey – both of Derby – with significant burns. Corey was transported from the scene in serious to critical condition.
According to a GoFundMe set up to benefit the victims’ family, Corey was put into an induced coma and will require skin surgery for her injuries.
Currently, the name of the other driver is being withheld as they are under investigation, which the Derby PD is in the midst of and Lee said could take upwards of two weeks before being brought to the district attorney for potential charges.
“We’ll thoroughly investigate the case,” Lee said. “We’ll look to see if there were any mechanical issues with the van, if there were any issues with the driver of the van and make a determination based on accident reconstruction, witness statements and statements from the driver as to what may have occurred.”
Lee said the department could make no statement on the cause of the accident, part of that ongoing investigation, at this time.
Along with Derby Police, fire departments from Derby, Mulvane and Sedgwick County responded to contain the fire and had the scene cleared by around 7:20 p.m. on April 24. Derby Fire Chief John Turner also noted a QuikTrip employee turned the pump off shortly after the incident to prevent any further harm/damage.
In fact-gathering mode currently, Lee noted all parties have been cooperative to this point and said his department is being thorough with its investigation.
“Obviously, nothing’s more tragic than a death, especially the death of a child,” Lee said. “I want the public to be assured that our investigation will be methodical, it will be complete and at the end of it we’ll know what caused this accident and proceed from there.”
A GoFundMe (https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-for-brandon-ivy-family) has been set up to help with the funeral and medical expenses of the victims involved in the wreck, which organizers said will stay open “as long as needed.” To date, in the week since the accident the GoFundMe has raised more than $80,000 for the family of the victims.
Starting in March, staff and the Derby City Council began to take measures to shape the ballot question regarding a new sales tax (with the current Derby Difference sales tax to expire in 2024).
With the council in general agreement to pursue a new 1% sales tax to be voted on in the 2023 general election, staff brought forward three usage options for where exactly to dedicate those funds in the city, which the council considered at its April 25 meeting.
Among the options were a 50/50 split dedicating sales tax revenue to parks/trails and streets/sidewalks maintenance and improvements and an option dedicating 50% to parks/trails, 40% to streets/sidewalks and 10% to public safety equipment and capital improvements. The final option maintained the same split between parks/trails and streets/sidewalks, while the final 10% would be dedicated to property tax stabilization.
In 2021, a pavement management plan was created for Derby which called for $2.7 million to be spent annually to maintain city streets to the preferred standards. City Manager Kiel Mangus said the funding split presented would help reach that level as well as facilitate some larger projects (tied to expansion) in the near future.
“There’s projects that are out there that we could shift over from what would likely be [bond] debt,” Mangus said.
Given the recent Parks Master Plan, there is no shortage of uses for sales tax revenue in that regard while Mangus also noted the public safety element could help shift the tax balance for Derby residents.
“It would allow us to buy some of those police vehicles, police body cam software and our other replacement items. It would also help us pay for fire trucks that we need to purchase in the future,” Mangus said. “That’s another example of what could be funded out of sales tax as opposed to property tax.”
Regarding public safety equipment, Mangus said the city has $10-$11 million purchases already planned over the 10-year period of the next sales tax. With a 1% sales tax estimated to generate $90-$100 million over 10 years, the split projected would cover those costs almost exactly.
Council member Nick Engle was appreciative of the element addressing public safety, as he sees that remaining an important issue for the city and its residents and one the council will continually be addressing.
“I don’t think we’re going to run out of equipment that we’re going to need to buy over the next decade,” Engle said.
For the sake of simplicity to clearly line out the purpose of the sales tax, Chris Unkel voiced his support of the 50/50 split between parks and streets.
Meanwhile, Council President Rocky Cornejo questioned what the ranking was on the issues as lined out in the recent public survey. Mangus confirmed that a high level of public safety was the top priority, followed by streets/sidewalks and parks maintenance.
With that, Cornejo questioned if the percentage split should more evenly reflect that priority ranking, and suggested flipping the percentage dedicated to parks and streets.
“I think we’re behind in the roads already; we all know that,” Cornejo said. “We’re gonna continue to have more roads to take care of the more we get into this.”
“The things you have in there matter because you have to educate people and it has to be things people care about,” Mangus said. “As long as we’re touching all the things on there, that’s most important.”
Rick Coleman, as stated at a previous council meeting, noted that he did not support a 1% sales tax without property tax stabilization. Given that, he supported the third option with 10% going to property tax stabilization.
Knowing that situations can change, Coleman said he sees that element as a commitment to Derby residents to help with the tax burden.
“This is, to me, the guarantee on the box that we’re going to keep a portion of that back to keep your property taxes low,” Coleman said.
With the education element stressed regarding passage of the sales tax, several council members voiced concerns about the ease of defining what “property tax stabilization” means for voters. Parks, streets and public safety improvements were viewed as more easily tangible ideas.
On top of that, Mayor Randy White stated that property tax stabilization is part of the council’s mission every year, with all the elements outlined in the other ballot question options seen as ways to help with the property tax stabilization as well.
“If this would get passed, we’re going to shift some of our property tax usage over to sales tax usage,” White said. “In the end, I think councils have a responsibility to manage property tax stabilization on a yearly [basis].I really think that property tax stabilization is our job. I don’t know if it’s really an easy thing to sell to people.”
“All of our intent is property tax stabilization,” Engle said. “but having the public safety equipment portion of it gives us that effect while also giving the public something to be like, ‘oh yeah, that’s what I wanted. That’s what the survey said.’”
Ultimately, Engle proposed a more balanced split (approved 7-0) of 45% for parks/trails, 45% for streets/sidewalks and 10% for public safety to come back for a second reading at a later meeting. While Mangus stated the exact percentages would not be listed on the ballot question, they are included on the resolution of intent indicating that specific commitment publicly.
As the city regularly looks to expand its trail system, something a recent public survey outlined as a community desire, it is now gearing up for the next such project.
On April 25, the Derby City Council authorized a contract with Prado Construction to add roughly half a mile of hike/bike trail on Woodlawn Boulevard, starting at the Chet Smith Avenue intersection.
“This project is intended to address a gap on south Woodlawn,” said Alex Lane, city engineer.
Currently, there is no connection from Chet Smith south to Madapalla Court, with the trail extension to be constructed along that stretch on the east side of the road. It would serve a number of neighborhoods in south Derby and connect those residents to amenities such as Swaney Elementary, the Derby Recreation Center, Derby Middle School and additional trails.
Designs for the project were completed in 2022, with construction slated to begin in 2023. Upon the second request for bids, two were received – both over the engineer’s estimate of $494,000. The lowest bid, from Prado, was $577,671.50.
Staff submitted the project to the Kansas Department of Transportation cost share program and received $210,000 in funding. An additional $210,000 was to be provided through capital improvement plan (CIP) reserve funds.
Inflation played a role in the increased costs since the estimate was done two years ago, but staff noted enough funds remained in the CIP reserve to cover the remaining $157,671.50 required for the project.
“We’re using that CIP reserve instead of having to dip into general funds,” City Manager Kiel Mangus said.
Generally, the council members were all in favor of the trail extension, though council member Rick Coleman questioned the location of the city limits and if the trail could be extended even farther south.
Lane reported the city limit is just south of Farborough Estates, but the current terminus of the trail extension would connect to that neighborhood.
Council President Rocky Cornejo asked if Woodlawn Boulevard was on the schedule for street maintenance that might conflict with the installation of the new bike path, but Lane confirmed that was not forecast for at least the next 10 years (how far out those plans go).
While there were some questions about where exactly the trail would be installed, the council was extremely supportive in approving what Mayor Randy White called the “neighborly thing to do” for that area of town. Others saw it as a perfect fit with Derby’s vision.
“I think it’s vital. With what we’re wanting to do as a city, with where our vision is at, I think this is a big deal,” council member Chris Unkel said. “I think it’s a good thing and I think it’s where we should be headed.”
When Sara Portela is not on the field, you can still hear her supporting her teammates in the dugout. Whether at the plate, in the field or the dugout, Portela always embraces whatever role she is given. The Highland Community College commit does a little bit of everything for Derby softball, and her confidence has skyrocketed this season.
During her junior season, Portela’s main role was to be a pinch runner for the pitcher or catcher Trinity Kuntz and scored 14 runs. Portela transitioned from a starting utility player for the junior varsity squad to the first runner off the varsity bench. The basepaths were where she felt the most comfortable and where she could help the team the most last season.
“I never doubted that I belonged on varsity, but I did not have a lot of confidence in myself last year at the plate, but base running was a role that I felt very comfortable in,” Portela said. “I know my capabilities when I run. I am very smart on the bases and confident in my team.”
Last season, Portela carried a decent bat for the Panthers in 16 plate appearances finishing with a .375 on-base percentage and three RBIs. After putting in some time in the weight room and in head coach Christy Weve’s weightlifting class, Portela has started to drive the ball with a high exit velocity.
“I would say out of the four years here, straight hitting has not been my strength. I have always been a slapper or a dragger,” Portela said. “Weve has really put some confidence in me this year, and that support has helped me out a lot.”
In 2023, Portela has produced her best high school season with a .316 batting average, .422 on-base percentage, nine RBIs and 14 runs.
Portela is one of five lefty batters for the Panthers, but she isn’t a natural southpaw. She switched when she was 10 years old for the purpose of drag bunting and slapping to move runners and put herself in a position to get on base.
“Batting left-handed helps, especially for the faster girls like myself, Loren Sweat, Kyler Demel and Karlie Demel,” Portela said. “Just being two steps closer to the base, even though we are all fast, just helps out a lot, especially to get on base.”
According to coach Weve, Portela brings her own unique style of play to the Panther roster and is a player that will take on any role to help the team win.
“Sara is a feisty player. She has a lot of energy, and she is a true team player,” Weve said. “She will do anything I ask her to do without questioning it…She has a great attitude, is a good leader and it is hard to find players like that.”
In August of 2022, Portela announced her commitment to Highland Community College. Portela said she has been interested in the recruiting process since she was in second grade, going to camps, showcases and playing club ball. The coaching staff reached out to her, and she saw that they were some of the most supportive coaching staffs she had ever seen.
“Committing to Highland last summer was a big stress relief,” Portela said. “Recruiting is definitely stressful, and I just feel confident knowing that the Highland staff is looking forward to me being there. It is nice, and I can focus on the now and not have to worry about next year.”
As the Panthers prepare for another postseason run, Portela is determined to keep her confidence up and do whatever she can to help the team compete for a state title.
“I would say that I really need to not doubt myself,” Portela said. “I have been really good with my confidence and my biggest problem with how I play is confidence, so I know I need to keep the confidence I am playing with now into the postseason.”
During the April 24 school board meeting, Derby Public Schools handed out its I Make a Difference awards for the month. Becky Washington (volunteer) and Craig McPherson (staff) were honored as the winners for the month of April.
Volunteer winner Washington is a Park Hill Elementary parent and avid volunteer. While having a full-time job, she consistently volunteers and works to help make Park Hill a better place.
Washington serves on multiple committees, is a member of the Park Hill Site Council, is president of Park Hill’s PTO, serves on the Park Hill Culture and Climate Committee, as well as the district’s Strategic Plan Steering Committee and Strategy 6 of the Strategic Plan. Her volunteering ranges from running PTO meetings to planning events to arranging meals for staff. She is always willing to help wherever she is needed.
Most recently, Washington served as the coordinator of Park Hill’s Sweetheart Dance. She researched elementary school dances, decorations, food and DJs to ensure the dance would be successful. She then coordinated buying supplies, such as snacks, flowers and decorations, and volunteered her time to decorate for the dance, chaperone the evening and help clean up following the dance. On top of that, from the start of the event to the end, she took notes of various ideas to improve upon the event for the future.
“When I think of ‘Derby Proud,’ I think of Becky Washington,” said Park Hill Principal Gretchen Pontious. “She embodies what it means to be a leader with a servant heart and works hard to ensure the current and future success of this wonderful district. We are extremely fortunate to have her.”
Staff winner Craig McPherson serves as a floating substitute at Oaklawn Elementary. He has proven to be a valuable asset to Oaklawn, going above and beyond in his duties as a floating sub to ensure that the school runs smoothly. McPherson was noted for always having a smile on his face, being willing and ready to jump in where he is needed and getting along well with students.
McPherson’s unwavering commitment to the students and teachers was demonstrated recently when a teacher had to leave in a hurry during an emergency. She left her emergency sub plans for McPherson, as she did not have time to write sub plans.
Because McPherson knows the school, teachers and staff so well, he was able to pull the teacher’s plan book that she would have used that day. He taught the material that was meant to be taught for that day, thus, the pacing guide specific curriculum was not interrupted. This act in the best interest of students on McPherson’s part put the teacher’s mind at ease as she knew the students were in good hands learning exactly what they needed to learn.
Not only does McPherson offer support to students and staff as a floating substitute, but he also enjoys teaching students about the weather. The same teacher who nominated him had him visit her classroom last school year to talk about his former career as a weather forecaster in the Air Force.
The students enjoyed learning about the weather, which is just one example of the impact McPherson has beyond his floating substitute role.